Spotlight on Hen Mar Farm in Goldston, North Carolina
Henry and Marge Stinson own Hen Mar Farm in Goldston, North Carolina. Hen Mar Farm sits on 444 acres with six 42'x500' chicken houses, 350 head of cattle, and hay fields. The Stinsons produce five flocks of 127,000 chickens, or approximately 635,000 chickens per year. They produce 8¼ to 8½ pound chickens in 58 days. Henry Stinson is a member of Chadham County Agriculture Advisory committee, where he serves as an advisor to the County Board of Commissioners.
A Legacy of Farming
Farming is more than a job, it's a lifestyle and a legacy for Henry Stinson. His grandparents Delphus and Jeanne Stinson purchased the original 114 comprising Hen Mar, to grow row crops such as soybeans and corn. The farm was passed down to Stinson's parents, Benner and Van Stinson, and was where Stinson and his three sisters grew up.
Although primarily crop farmers, both Stinson's father and his grandfather raised chickens, to varying degrees. "My grandfather had chickens on the farm, so technically he was a chicken farmer," recalls Stinson. "My father built actual chicken houses. We had two houses, both built in 1964. The lifespan of a house back then was 10-12 years. When that played out, that was it. By the time I was a teenager, we didn't have chickens anymore."
A Liberating Career
For 25 years, beginning when he was 16 years old, Stinson worked at a local textile mill. During high school, he worked the second shift. It was chicken farming that finally relieved him of mill work, which he didn't particularly enjoy.
In 1998, he received the farm from his father. A year later, he built his first four chicken houses.
"When I built the four chicken houses, I was going to quit work and my wife was going to keep working, but for some reason, while we were building the houses, she said she was going to look after chickens and I was gonna keep working so that's what we did. We built two more houses in April 2001, then I left the mill and came home to farm full-time," explains Stinson.
Stinson has two sons. Chris, 29, is a school teacher in Rawlings. Victor, 18, just graduated from high school and is on his way to play baseball at William Peace College in Raleigh.
"He's the best helper I've ever had," says Stinson of Victor, who grew up on the farm. "But now he plays ball every day, seven days a week. He wants to teach and coach baseball."
As far as the sons one day taking over the farm, Stinson says, "Someday, maybe."
"One son, he lives in Raleigh, and who knows what an 18-year-old kid is going to be? The younger one enjoys the farm, he really seems to like it. I think at some point he may want to continue farming. Who knows?" Stinson says.
Do What You Love, Love What You Do
Stinson loves everything about farming, especially the lifestyle, being outdoors and working with livestock. His cows are his hobby, he says. But, getting into poultry farming and building chicken houses has been the best choice he and his wife ever made, Stinson believes.
"Chicken farming was the best move we ever made," Stinson says. "We've been very fortunate. We got into chickens during a really good time - the late 90's were probably the best time to ever build chicken houses in history. We've been much more fortunate then we would have been in our other jobs."
While the chicken house have been a great financial investment for the Stinsons, the rewards go much deeper.
"I have a kid who just graduated from high school and since he was a little kid my wife has gone to to every Christmas party, Valentine party and whatever other kind of event they had. She went on all the field trips, while she was gone I took care of things here." Stinson notes. "It gave us a lifestyle that the two of us have really enjoyed. I don't know that I could imagine what it would have been like if we hadn't built those chicken houses. I guess I'd still be driving off to work every day away from home."